CALIFORNIA—William Meek, 47, of Citrus Heights pled not guilty on February 20 to animal cruelty charges prompted by the discovery of his ex-girlfriend’s 12-year-old border collie, Zelda, who was found dead floating in the American River last June.

Mollie Wasemiller testified in a Sacramento Superior Courtroom that she raised Zelda from a puppy, and that the dog had survived various injuries including being run over by a car and a severely broken leg.

Due to her injuries, Wasemiller argued, Zelda was defensive, and would bite when people tried to touch her. Wasemiller stated that Zelda may have bitten as many as five people.

Last June, Zelda reportedly bit Wasemiller, at which point she made the decision, along with Meek, her boyfriend at the time, to surrender the dog to a shelter.

Meek and Wasemiller initially attempted to bring Zelda to a shelter in Citrus Heights, but were turned away because they did not live in that jurisdiction. Then, on June 11, 2014, Meek allegedly told his girlfriend that he was taking the dog to the Front Street Animal Shelter in Sacramento.

Authorities say there was never any record of Meek surrendering a dog to the Front Street Animal Shelter, and a few days later, a River Park resident reported seeing a dog floating in the river nearby.

Zelda, identified by a microchip implant, was found with a bowling ball and a rock, weighing a total of 31.6 pounds, tied to her collar.  A necropsy confirmed she was alive when she was thrown into the river and then drowned as she struggled to free herself from the weight pulling her underwater.

The case has prompted a huge response from social media including a petition targeted at the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office demanding justice for Zelda. The petition has 2,130 signatures as of February 24.

Meek, a construction worker with a history of run-ins with the law, is being held in jail without bail due to pending felony charges in unrelated cases.